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No Cure for PTSD

Ocoka

Combined Action
Verified Military
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Jun 29, 2014
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Decisive Terrain
#1
This is going to be a very long post. Mods, delete it, move it, do what you want with it.

I've made some 4700+ posts on these forums and maybe 10% of those posts are actually worth a shit. I've always considered myself lucky and honored to be allowed to be a non-SOF member of an SF/SOF website. And FWIW, I'd like to leave something here that's meaningful and may even be of help to somebody down the road. It's my take on PTSD.

PTSD is a real thing. It's a shame that it can be exploited by posers, frauds and non-hacks...but it's real and it can be treated. I think there are various therapies and medications that can help. But I don't think it can be cured anymore than memories can be erased.

I suffered with PTSD issues after Vietnam. I didn't know what was wrong with me. I had a lot of anger, moments of rage, depression and sadness. I got married right after the Marine Corps and got divorced after 11 months. For the next 23 years I avoided relationships, friendships, had no tolerance for petty bullshit, wasn't shy at telling bosses to go fuck themselves, and had numerous jobs. I'd be in the man-cave and sometimes it was very much like Willard in the hotel room in Saigon...the walls moving in on me. I'd lace up the combat boots, head out to the seediest low-dive bars I could find, put When the Levee Breaks on the juke box and proceed to get hammered. Sometimes I got in fights. A couple of times I spent the night in jail. Sometimes I end up in the strangest places at 3am.

In 1980 I joined the North Carolina Air Guard. I thought it would help to be back in uniform. And it did to some degree. It felt good. I stuck with it for six years and then things started to unravel again. I quit my job, quit the Guard, moved to Florida and tried to lose myself.

__________________________________________

It wasn't combat. It wasn't the firefights. It wasn't even the booby-traps. The danger, the stress, the sleep deprivation, the hyper-vigilance is normal, acceptable in war. It's good to kill the bad guys. It feels good. It's the other stuff, the weird shit that comes out of nowhere, children burned, blown-up, mother's wailing in grief, friends hurt bad, even killed...Two weeks in the bush, I saw a young woman, a female Viet Cong suspect--about my age--tied to a bench, a rag stuffed down her throat and water poured on the rag by my South Vietnamese counterparts. I watched that girl drown for 45 minutes. It wasn't my place to do anything about it. I was a fucking 19-year-old Pfc at the time. This was their war. This was civil war at its ugliest.

I got hardened after a while to shit like this. I accepted it. When we killed a bunch of Viet Cong and celebrated with beer, that was cool. And then something else would happen. We had three wounded VC POWs lying on the ground. They were being treated by our Corpsman prior to their evac. Then one of our ARVN NCO's walked over, pushed Doc back out of the way, flipped his selector on full-auto and killed them all in one long burst. What the fuck? What do you do? Just fucking nailed them. I'll tell you what you do. You say, fuck it, it don't mean nothin. It's their war. It's fucked up but it's Vietnam. You're not in Kansas, anymore, Dorothy.

The firefights, the running gunfights, that's SOP. That's what you're there for. To kill the enemy. Then something weird happens. Dan Gallagher and John Arteaga are saddling up, getting ready to go mobile to their ambush site at sundown. Gallagher slings a LAAW over his shoulder and it detonates...spontaneous detonation of a Light Anti-Tank Assault Weapon and they're dead. No enemy around. Two young men blown to bits and nobody ever figured out why.

Then there's Greg Keller. Hot, humid day, long patrol. Take five, everybody, drop your rucks, smoke em if you got em. He shrugs off his ruck, sits down wearily...and disappears in a brilliant white flash and horrendous bang. Nothing but smoke and dust and blood and a mangled corpse. And no enemy around. Nobody to shoot at, nobody to pay for this.

Paul "Tex" Hernandez. Young kid from Texas. Shot in the back by a VC sniper. We carried him on a poncho to the medevac Huey and never expected to see him again. But he lived. He made it. He spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair and died of cancer in 1998.

We had contacts. We were pretty goddam good at killing the enemy. We did our job well. We killed them and got beer and those were the good times. Then one night Ronnie Ross get's murdered by an ARVN Lieutenant, shot down in front of us in a green-on-blue, 13 rounds of 556, pointblank, full-auto, right below the flak-jacket in the thighs and groin. A Mexican standoff ensues, Marines threatening to kill every goddam South Vietnamese in sight, the ARVNs ready to shoot back. Ross is bleeding out. Our Corpsman is working on him, but what the fuck can anybody really do with this kind of wound? I have to call in the medevac. Everybody's standing around with locked and loaded M16s, screaming at each other. Sgt. Hutson is trying to defuse the intensity.

I radio 7th Company HQ. Request priority medevac and immediate foot react to help us contain what might be a bloodbath. The XO says he's on the way with a react team but at least 20 minutes out. Eventually the guns start coming down. The minutes tick by. Doc is packing holes, he's got an IV going. He's doing everything he can to keep Ross alive. Twenty minutes go by. Sgt Hutson is getting frantic. Where the fuck is that Dust-Off? I don't know. It's taking forever. Finally I get the hand-off to the incoming bird. Are we taking ground fire? Negative. The XO arrives with six Marines. Strobe is out. Huey lands, we lug Ross to the bird and he's away. We get taken out of the bush that night, we hump two clicks to the 7th Co Compound to spend the rest of the night behind sandbags and barbed wire and I fucking breakdown and sob like a fucking baby.

A month later Ross dies in Japan. I'm back in the bush with a new team. Here, more gunfights, more weirdness, more casualties. A lot more casualties, more medevacs... and finally I get hit. Both legs, multiple frag wounds. But I'm alive, I didn't get captured and I'm not going to lose anything. It's over. Fuck the wounds. The physical wounds heal. They may hurt for years, decades...the pieces they leave in may migrate, form cists, itch, come out in the shower, need to get removed years down the road. But that's SOP. That's part of the deal. It's the other shit that hurts and never stops hurting.
______________________________________________

You get older. You take your medication. Shit happens in your life. I met a divorced woman with two little boys, fell in love, had a child of our own. A instant family. But still dealing with issues that threatened to destroy everything. Get help or I'm leaving. Get help or all this will vanish.

I'm a lucky, lucky man. I got help. I found out that other guys had been through the same shit. The war, yes, but more importantly, the years after the war, when you're drifting in a lonely sea and feel isolated from society. When pressures start building, bosses jump in your shit, bills pile up, you're in debt...these are things you can't shoot your way out of, you can't kill the bank, you can't kill the mortgage, the car payment. You have to realize that you need somebody to help you, the Vet Center, the VA, your battle buddies, your military peers, your friends and family. You've got to seek help and get it.

There is life and happiness after war and PTSD. War, for good or bad, is part of your character. It'll always be there. That's why old veterans in their 80s and 90s still shed a tear. It ain't going away. But you can come to terms with it. Through therapy, counciling, medication, spirituality, walking through the fucking woods. I've mentioned before that anti-depressants, counceling, group therapy with other combat vets...and my children have all helped me cope and have given me joy.

Never give up. The military trains you to never give up, even when things look the darkest. That goes for post-war life too. Life is a long movie, with many twists and turns and unexpected things happen all the time. You never know now where you'll be in ten years. Life is a movie. Never walk out before the show is over because if you do, you'll miss the Happy Ending.
 
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Ooh-Rah

Marine
Moderator
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Sep 12, 2012
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7,951
#2
@Ocoka -

As always, thank you for continuing to post not only a part of history that many of us only read about in books, but the personal side as well.
That's some raw shit you wrote, brother.

Semper Fi
 

medicchick

Farking hot weather
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Nevada
#3
This man helped save my marriage and sanity, I am better for having known him and it was heart breaking to hear of his passing. RP has talked a bit about his issues so I won't go into them here but finding someone or a group you mesh with to even just BS with is more important than people seem to realize. Having been privileged to read some of your posts I'm glad you are around to give non glossed over versions (of course the TR pictures are nice too;-)).
 

Kaldak

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Messages
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Somewhere
#4
@Ocoka wonderful post. Honest and raw, and hopefully motivates those that read it and need help to go get that help. And, that help is not at the bottom of a bottle as you showed.
 

Devildoc

Verified Military
Joined
Nov 3, 2015
Messages
2,169
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Durham, NC
#5
PTSD is a funny thing. In most cases it isn't the thing people would assume. It's the other things, those sights and smells and sounds that surround the thing. And it's amazing what triggers it, what pulls the trigger.

What's funny is I don't have any PTSD from anything in the military. For whatever reason I just don't. But there are things that I was involved with in EMS that haunts me to this day and certain times a year I have little mini freak-outs, kind of anxiety. It's weird.
 

Kraut783

SOF Support
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#6
Ocaka, I thank you for opening up like you did, while I hope writing it out does help you....I can guarantee someone of the board will read this and it will help them recognize the issues they might not even know they were going through.
 

Muppet

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#7
PTSD is a funny thing. In most cases it isn't the thing people would assume. It's the other things, those sights and smells and sounds that surround the thing. And it's amazing what triggers it, what pulls the trigger.

What's funny is I don't have any PTSD from anything in the military. For whatever reason I just don't. But there are things that I was involved with in EMS that haunts me to this day and certain times a year I have little mini freak-outs, kind of anxiety. It's weird.
This bro and I'm getting the help I shrugged off for years, not to mention my personal losses but fuck.
 

Muppet

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#8
Damn brother. It's hitters like you that have forged paths through hell, blood, shit and loss, that have taught us, frankly, helped us realize that the term, PTS, my therapist says that "it is NOT a disorder", is real, normal to have and although it is always here, it can be helped. I don't know you personally bro but I look up to you, much how I still look up to my pop, also a Nam vet. Thank you for your sacrifice. Welcome home. Much love bro.
 

Topkick

Verified Military
Joined
Apr 26, 2017
Messages
973
#10
Thanks for sharing this Ocoka. Its always interesting to hear about your experiences.

I found out that other guys had been through the same shit.
I don't really think I had PTSD, but after a life in the military I was lost when I retired and had to deal with the real world again. At first, I wasn't around anyone with remotely similar experiences. In my new career though, I was lucky enough to befriend a couple of combat vets, an old Green Beret and a Marine. These guys took me in and helped me assimilate. I think its important to have people around who understand, so you don't go it alone.
 

DasBoot

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Messages
690
#11
This may be the best post I’ve ever read on this site. I haven’t done much in my time that could cause the sort of trauma you have had to handle. Reading this does help me relate to my brother, my dad, my grandpa- guys who I’ve looked up to and listened to but until now I’ve only just started to understand them, and what they’re going through. Thank you again for posting.
 

Ranger Psych

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#12
You learn to adapt to it, adapt it to you, use what you can, control or mitigate the rest. It's a ride that you won't like, but it's a path everyone has to take on their own, to their own endstate/salvation.

People and meds can help you along the path, but it's still something you have to walk alone... just like a roadmarch. You can have a brother or sister beside you, but your ruck is still your ruck and you've got to make the steps yourself.

You can have professional help like Bob was for me (That man is the sole reason I've been stuck with MC for over a decade now, good thing I like her and the human we made as much as they like me) or non-professional help through a solid friend network like I've built over the years. Staying in contact with those that you can helps, because you can break out the beers and discuss that shit that you're stuck on and get a different perspective on what went down... which helps bigtime in just processing the situation. Especially since everyone's piece of what happens differs greatly.
 

Ocoka

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#13
These are the stories I don't tell my kids. But it felt good to write it down.

Maybe the most important thing, like @Ranger Psych says, is you gotta have an outlet, you have to vent. One of the problems we faced, that is, Vietnam vets, is nobody wanted to talk about it because nobody was interested in listening...and I include the VA. It took many years for the VA to acknowledge PTSD...and it took the Internet to help us find our long lost battle brothers.


Love to all. And thanks.

Al
 
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Devildoc

Verified Military
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#14
These are the stories I don't tell my kids. But it felt good to write it down.

Maybe the most important thing, like @Ranger Psych says, is you gotta have an outlet, you have to vent. One of the problems we faced, that is, Vietnam vets, is nobody wanted to talk about it because nobody was interested in listening...and I include the VA
. It took many years for the VA to acknowledge PTSD...and it took the Internet to help us find our long lost battle brothers.

As a postscript to this, I wanted to add that our CO started an investigation into Ross's murder. It went up the chain and was, he tells me, "guashed in the interests of allied harmony." The killer--an RF lieutenant--was transferred to another Regional Force company. None of us has any idea why he killed Ross. He claimed he mistook Ross for VC, which was pure fucking fantasy.

The CO also opened an investigation into the M72 LAAWs. We usually carried about 10 of them, distributed among the team. He was never able to determine why the one that killed Dan and JJ detonated...but a few weeks later a directive came down from 2nd CAG to not leave LAAWs stacked in direct sunlight. My CO at the time, Capt Mallard, never forgave himself for those deaths...he always wrote letters to the families of the guys we lost...and I think every letter tore him up. He retired an 05 years later but even 05s have to deal with PTSD. He just sucked it in and continued to serve but he can't talk about it anymore so I know it ate him up.

Love to all. And thanks.

Al
Truth. That's one reason the military is so clannish. As is emergency services (the trinity of LE/EMS/fire). No one 'outside' can really understand. Oh, they can empathize, they can 'be there', they can proffer advice, but no one else understands. That was and is very important to me: for you to know my pain, you need to have been there.
 

x SF med

the Troll
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#15
This is going to be a very long post. Mods, delete it, move it, do what you want with it.
Brother... this is not getting deleted, or moved. Hell if it were just up to me, it would be made a sticky.

PTS is real, I've helped more than my share of friends through rough patches... it's like malaria in the fact it can lie dormant for long periods and then rear its ugly head to screw up most of the progress made, even if it's for a short time. During crisis mode, friends, non-judgemental, with experiences similar or at least an understanding of the situation, are the best support system.

Thanks for bringing this to the forefront here, it took some balls to lay it all out there.
 

Muppet

Paratrooper
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#16
Brother... this is not getting deleted, or moved. Hell if it were just up to me, it would be made a sticky.

PTS is real, I've helped more than my share of friends through rough patches... it's like malaria in the fact it can lie dormant for long periods and then rear its ugly head to screw up most of the progress made, even if it's for a short time. During crisis mode, friends, non-judgemental, with experiences similar or at least an understanding of the situation, are the best support system.

Thanks for bringing this to the forefront here, it took some balls to lay it all out there.
Second that brothers.

M.